Talk to Me Stars Sophie Wilde and Joe Bird and is Directed by the Philippou Brothers
Review: Talk to Me is the latest A24 horror movie to shock and possess crowds with slick production design and a strong sense of what’s truly unnerving.
Talk to Me is the latest elevated (?) horror movie from A24, a studio that’s completely redefined and reimagined the state of the genre, introducing new ideas and themes into it over the past decade. Talk to Me attempts to do the same, pitting trauma and coping mechanisms with demonic forces to a scary degree.
Talk to Me follows Mia (Sophie Wilde) and her friend group as they use a mysterious embalmed hand (plastered with past victims) to conjure spirits. They become hooked on the thrill of meeting and being possessed by the dead, until it goes horribly wrong when one of them unleashes a supernatural force that’s dangerous and deadly.
The climax towards the end of the first half of Talk to Me (when the séance inevitably goes south) is executed perfectly, ratcheting up the tension and delivering on the promise on some utterly terrifying paranormal scares.
It juxtaposes the ineffable highs of knowing you’re doing something dangerous that you shouldn’t be, with the realization that at some point the house – or in this case, the embalmed hand – is bound to win. There’s a brilliantly flashy montage incorporated in which each of the members of the friend group take center stage of the séance, each being able to understand the feeling of touching death while still being able to pull away.
But the rules are made clear: if you stay in the trance too long, it devours you. So when a demonic being takes the form of a main character’s deceased loved one, the night turns from gnarly to grave. Shot to the nines by YouTube stars turned debut directors Michael and Danny Philippou, Talk to Me exceeds what you’d expect from two visionary minds setting out to make a feature length film for the first time.
It has some excellent camerawork, blocking, and style. Technically speaking, there haven’t been many horror movies made this well in 2023. When it’s rolling, the terror can be quite powerful and transcendent, putting you deep into the minds of the teenagers who have bitten off way more than they can chew.
This is in part due to the striking performances by each cast member. The main character, Mia, is played by Sophie Wilde, who has to effectively sell both scarring trauma and demonic possession in one character. It’s an impressive feat, compounded by the fact that she hasn’t had many acting credits prior to this.
The rest of the cast of Talk to Me holds their own as well. The friend group is comprised of Alexandra Jensen, Otis Dhanji, Zoe Terakes and Chris Alosio. Nobody sticks out like a sore thumb, each having intrinsically different roles and characteristics that make each of them feel real.
Zoe Terakes is a specific standout, getting the most outwardly fun and unique character in the group. They add a raucous energy to scenes that feel more alive as a result. Perhaps this is why I preferred the first half of Talk to Me to the second – because there’s a drop off in energy after the big set piece plays out.
Once the first half is over, Talk to Me hits the breaks. It loses steam trying to over-explain the events of the first half in order to build for the second half. It’s as if you’re watching Norman Bates clean the bathroom for 20 minutes just to decompress from the scene that took place prior.
Reviews for Films like Talk to Me (2023)
And frankly, Talk to Me never gets close enough to the peak again. I’ve complained on numerous occasions that we’re in a narrative rut in horror, conjuring the same plot points about grief and loss that all feel identical at this point. It’s ironic that this spawned in the wake of Hereditary, which still feels like the best realization of this theme.
Talk to Me succumbs to these ideas rather than redefining them. I couldn’t help but feel that the Philippou brothers had a few great set pieces and ideas, but only a story worthy of 45 minutes. It’s bloated at times, paced awkwardly for the sake of spacing out rather effective scares and long-lasting imagery.
This is to say that Talk to Me isn’t perfect. It has the hallmarks of a classic A24 horror movie – a few jarring sequences, some flashy design and style, and a couple brilliant performances. It strays off the path a few times, but course-corrects just enough to get by.
The final scenes win you back with a mix of despair and irony. It brings many of the previous moments full circle in a way that I kinda admire, even if it feels a bit too obvious. Fans of the genre will like Talk to Me, I’m just not sure it cracks the list of the best horror movies from A24. Think Smile, but with a better shtick.
Watch Talk to Me on VOD
Talk to Me Movie Cast and Credits
Sophie Wilde as Mia
Joe Bird as Riley
Alexandra Jensen as Jade
Otis Dhanji as Daniel
Miranda Otto as Sue
Zoe Terakes as Hayley
Chris Alosio as Joss
Cinematography: Aaron McLisky
Editor: Geoff Lamb
Composer: Cornel Wilczek
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Talk to Me movie on IMDb